Girls <3 Geeks (for Payment or Services Rendered)

Nothing seems quite as amusing to non-geeks as seeing a bookish misfit paired with a beautiful woman. And, outside of sitcoms like The Big Bang Theory and movies like 40-Year-Old Virgin, some seem to think best way to arrange that scenario is to put some money on the table. Let’s check out today’s two examples.

Penn alum on Beauty and the Geek: Penn’s student paper, the Daily Pennsylvanian, reports that a recent engineering grad has been selected for the new season of the CW reality show which pairs (ostensibly) misfit geniuses with (ostensibly) ditzy hotties. The article’s actually pretty interesting for some background on how the show’s producer’s conceptualize geekiness. For one thing, a range of interests are represented among the geeks, including filking, astrophysics, and playing in a Star Wars tribute band. The producers also go out of their way to recruit from Ivy League schools; the first season’s winning team included one Penn med student whom I met at a dodgeball tournament last year. Some particularly telling comments:

“I think that Ivy League students are probably geekier than the overall population because being a geek goes along with being high-achieving,” Dern [a former runner-up who helped cast] said.

In preparation for this season – the show’s fourth – the CW interviewed people on the street about their perceptions of the term “geek.”

The most ubiquitous answer: “socially awkward,” Dern said.

“I really had no doubts that I was a geek [before the show], … and I’ve always been in the geek-pride camp,” [Penn alum] Frank said.

I’ll have to see if I can chat with them about their interviews some more. Incidentally, I hear this season’s show includes one female geek/male beauty pair. Seems unlikely to me that they couldn’t find enough female geeks for a whole “reverse” season, and more likely than they just didn’t want to risk viewers by challenging the dominant perception of geeks so much.

Computer club to hold “nerd auction” for dates: Also worthy of note, Tony sends me a link to a CNN story on a college computer club offering to trade tech support for makeovers and dates. The whole thing was cooked up by a public relations class trying to figure out how to draw women into computer science, but how this is supposed to do that completely eludes me.

“You can buy a nerd and he’ll fix your computer, help you with stats homework, or if you’re really adventurous, take you to dinner!” Ben Ford, president of the Linux Users Group, said on its Web site.

Ford acknowledged that some of the group’s 213 registered members may not be ready for the auction block.

“The problem is that we’re all still nerds. Let’s face it, guys. If anyone’s going to bid on us, we’ll need some spicing up,” he wrote. “And who better to help with that than sorority girls who like nothing better than a makeover?”

Doesn’t offering to fix computers (rather than, say, teach computer skills) and professing a need for makeovers kind of uphold stereotypes and maintain a division of labor, so to speak, in a way that might not make this an ideal recruiting campaign? Maybe I’m missing something. So far, though, the sororities have been ignoring the nerds’ calls.

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